A couple weeks back we wrote about a New York Times article that claimed our tax dollars were being spent by the USDA to find more ways to add cheese to things like Domino’s Pizzas and Taco Bell products. But a new report in the Atlantic now says the Times misled readers — perhaps unintentionally — into thinking this was the case.
For many readers, including Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, the takeaway from the Times article was that the USDA was spending millions of tax dollars, though a marketing group known as Dairy Management, to help Domino’s create and market pizzas containing significantly more cheese.
However, writes the Atlantic, the funding for Dairy Management’s domestic campaigns actually come from a self-imposed tax on dairy producers:
The USDA’s job with respect to Dairy Management–a job defined by the Dairy Production and Stabilization Act of 1983–is to make sure all producers pay the tax, that nobody freeloads, and that marketing campaigns are legal. Occasionally, the USDA will choose board members for Dairy Management, but the vast majority of the board is comprised of dairymen. Moss wrote nothing to directly counteract any of these facts.
The article states that the funds given by the USDA to Dairy Management are earmarked to promote dairy interests overseas, meaning that the tax dollars were not specifically spent on the Domino’s project.
However, one could argue that this distinction is a minor one, as the USDA money still contributes to the overall budget of Dairy Management, allowing it to utilize its remaining funds to cheese-up our pizzas.
So what do you think — Were our tax dollars being spent properly or not?
How Journalists Got the Cheese Lobbying Story Wrong [The Atlantic]